I am not a fan of dragging at all. But the reality is that dragging for a body is done in many parts of the country and can be a useful technique whenever you have a large area to search, no Last Point Seen (LPS) and divers are not available. This recovery method is usually not employed by a dive team or divers but by other community recovery personnel such as your rescue squads and fire departments. There are some things to consider and rules to follow whenever dragging is being considered:
1. If possible, never drag for a murder victim. It will destroy or move physical evidence and create additional wounds on the victim.
2. Never conduct dragging operations when divers are underwater. There are many old draggers who can't wait to get their "hooks" in the water. Make sure they wait until the divers are out of the water before the hooks go overboard.
3. Remember that dragging can move the victim away from the PLS (Point Last Seen), so always begin the search with divers until they decide that the victim cannot be found by them. Then send in the draggers.
4. If dragging has started before divers arrive, have the dragging stopped until such time as the divers advise they cannot find the victim. Then let the dragging resume.
5. Always confirm that the dragging has been suspended before you permit your divers to enter the water. Find out where the draggers have been and if any hooks were lost during their operation. Why? Because they could have moved the body away from the PLS and because any area that was searched by dragging has to be searched again by divers. Also, if hooks were lost, you now have a hazardous situation for your divers.
6. If dragging is needed, always drag within the search area and towards shore. That way if you hook the victim and then lose the body, it will not be moved outside of the search area or into deeper water.
Establish dragging procedures prior to any recovery operation. Be warned that opinions differ on the suitability of dragging as a recovery procedure. Dragging hooks are designed to hook into the flesh and clothing of the victim. Imagine the victim's family on site and seeing their loved one being recovered this way. There is no question that a diving recovery is a more humane way to recover a body.
If drag hooks are used, make sure you put this in your recovery report. The medical examiner who conducts the autopsy will need this information in order to understand how certain wounds found on the body might have been made.